Just 20 years ago, most health clubs and fitness facilities looked pretty much the same. You have a bunch of treadmills, bikes, and stairclimbers (no ellipticals yet!). You had a big area of shiny chrome machines that all looked like they could be mistaken for the painter’s scaffolding. And, you had the “muscle beach” area where all the free weights were being dropped accompanied by the cacophony of grunting bros looking to get swole.

Flash forward to today’s fitness industry, and it looks completely different. Boutique clubs have popped up everywhere to cater to the needs and preferences of every aspiring athlete, stay at home Mom, and weekend warrior. Boutiques comprise over 21% of the market, which represents about $4.5 billion in revenue.

This trend has not only brought new exercisers into clubs, it has brought the more affluent audience into the market. A single spinning class at a SoulCycle location will run you about $35. This might seem like a crazy number to spend for the privilege of riding a stationary bike, but they cannot seem to open locations fast enough.

The secret to the boutique fitness trend is community and engagement. People are not going through the motions. They are engaged, excited, and energized. People are not being forced into a vanilla, big box model of something for everyone. They are getting something designed just for them (and hundreds of people just like them).

Companies should pay attention to this trend. I read quite a bit about how millennials, diverse populations, or other classified audiences are “different” and we have to manage them differently. I don’t think this is true. We have to better manage our organizations because they have infinite choices. If we do not give them an environment where they can be engaged and a part of a community, they will go find somewhere that will.

Don’t blame the audience for being different. Most of the time, the problem is that we insist on staying the same.

Building a collaborative culture starts with flexibility and community. Let’s talk about it.


Companies can enhance employee engagement by designing flexible and intimate environments similar to those offered by boutique fitness studios.